APP's Aida Greenbury explains the potential impact of the New York Declaration on deforestation
The world's forests have this week been given what we can only hope is a realistic reprieve. The New York Declaration on Forests marks a watershed in the global effort to contain, then deforestation around the world. This recognises explicitly the role of natural forests as stores of carbon and the role of business in managing their future.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has done the planet and some of its most critical ecosystems a great service in convening this week's remarkable meeting of governments, global businesses and NGOs, all of whom are committing to a range of targets designed to secure the future of the world's forests. Deforestation is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and therefore global warming. Natural forests are effective carbon sinks that help mitigate against this. They are also priceless centres of biodiversity and a source of economic welfare to many millions of people.
In signing this declaration, the goal is to be a part of the delivery of this ambition - to act, not just to speak. Action on this scale will, though, require collaboration on an unprecedented level. Perhaps the most significant phrase in the New York Declaration is, 'we commit to doing our part to achieve the following outcomes in partnership'.
I know how effective partnership can be in tackling what some might see as intractable problems. In early 2013, APP committed, to a highly ambitious Forest Conservation Policy, the foundation of which was a complete and permanent end to all natural forest clearance in our supply chain in Indonesia and China. For us, it has involved adopting a business model based on sustainable plantations operated with respect for the natural forest. This puts us 17 years ahead of the 2030 target stated in the declaration. We could not have got there - and more importantly, held firm on our commitment - without widespread collaboration. This has been with government, with businesses up and down our supply chain, with our employees, and, surprising to some, with many of those who were our fiercest critics.
The New York Declaration also commits to the restoration of 350 million hectares (864 million acres) of natural forest by 2030. That is an area some 30 times the size of New York State. This is an extraordinary and unprecedented global commitment. Addressing forest protection and restoration is everyone's responsibility. We, the world community, should not only use the resources provided for us, we also have a responsibility to protect, nurture and restore the parts that we have taken.
Forest restoration on this scale is without doubt ambitious, but, if we focus on the sort of partnership represented at this meeting, then it is eminently achievable.
APP recently committed to support through partnership the protection and restoration of one million hectares of forest and forested peatland across 10 landscape scale areas in Indonesia. I know that even at that scale, just one company cannot achieve it on its own, so if 349 million more hectares are to be restored in the next 15 years, there will have to be global co-operation on a very broad scale indeed.
The supply chain has a really important role to play as it can recognise and partner with businesses practising sustainable forestry. National governments are critical in creating the governance frameworks that inhibit deforestation and encourage restoration. Civil society is critical in continuing to make examples of those businesses which continue with unsustainable practises, and to lending their skills and support to businesses that do the opposite.
Our business is largely dependent on sustainable, productive forestry and we hope that others will join forces with us and each other. The targets set out in the declaration are a good start, but the goal must be to act now in order to achieve the stated goals well ahead of time. If we can do it, others can too.
Aida Greenbury is managing director of sustainability for Asia Pulp and Paper
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